Honda Unicorn Review by Shatabda Saha

Although fascinated about possessing a 2 wheeler from quite a long time, it took me some time to actually buy one. I moved to Bangalore in 2005 after completing my engineering and started working. Without having any personal conveyance, public transport was the only option I had to commute to and from office.

To avoid the office hour rush and minimise the travel time I managed to find an accommodation within 3 Km of my office. Things were manageable till November 2006 until I had to vacate the accommodation and find another one. The real problem started now as my new place was a bit away from the main road with very limited bus service.

However the new place being in a calm and quiet surrounding (which is very rare inside the city in Bangalore) I was in no mood to shift to a new place. Hence the only alternative was to go for a bike. This is due to two reasons, first I was very keen to have a two wheeler as I always had a feeling that there is an extra charm in riding a bike and secondly I did not have the requirement of a car yet (being a bachelor).

The Search Begins

I started my search in late December (2006). I am great fan of Einstein and believe nothing is absolute, everything is relative. There can’t be a perfect bike and I have to choose the best possible one that fits my requirement. The very obvious question was whether to go for 125cc or 150cc. Although budget was a constraint I never got the real feel in test riding couple of 125cc bikes.

My friend had a pulsar 150 and after riding it I had a good feel about the bike. I went to the Bajaj showroom that was very near to my place and had test ride of Pulsar 150 and 180. Although Pulsar 180 gave me a better feel but considering an expected mileage of 40 (as the dealer told) I dropped the idea of 180 instantly.

Although Pulsar 150 was quite appealing I did not like the orange light in the digital speedometer. Moreover I had seen my friend shelling out big bucks in servicing (the service bill always used to be more than Rs 1200). Then I tried out CBZ extreme. I liked the drive quality but did not like the looks very much.

I was quite confused because I could not really choose between the two. I was going through the reviews available in internet and trying to figure out the performance review of the 150cc bikes. Then I came across a post which said Honda is going to come up with new Unicorn model. I always had a fascination for Honda brand and liked the Unicorn, apart from its narrow tyres and spoke wheels.

I thought it is better to test ride Honda engine before coming to a decision. The wait seemed too long as it had been 3 months and I had not yet finalized on my first machine. 20th March 2007 is the date when Honda launched the new Unicorn Sports and the first look of it in the launch news was quite impressive.

It was 2nd or 3rd April when the bike was available for display in Bangalore showrooms, and without wasting any time I went to the nearest dealer and took a test ride of it. It was, I would say love at first ride. The smoothness of the engine, the mono suspension classy look that it gives to the rear portion and alloy wheels with thicker tyres than its predecessor all added to my likings. I felt as if there were no confusion left and I had been just waiting for it. I thanked God that I waited and I felt I have got my reward for the wait.

The Day

I quickly arranged the cash from my friends because I felt I could not wait any longer and submitted all the documents to the dealer on 6th and booked for the delivery on 7th April 2007. On 7th evening I collected my bike and drove back to my place. It gave me a feeling of satisfaction and pride to own a Honda!

Shaky Start

However my happiness and illusions could not last very long as I was brought back to reality from seventh heaven pretty soon. Just on the second day I fell off with the bike (till date, that has been my only fall) as another bike in front of me took an awkward turn without showing the indicator.

I could not react to the situation and found myself lying on the road in fraction of seconds. I was not worried about whether I had got hurt but I was worried about the scratches in my new machine. To my relief I found it had scratches only on the head light panel and nowhere else. Welcome to the city traffic!

Initial Days

I took proper care to drive the bike in the initial days, making sure it did not clock more than 50 Kmph mark in the first 2000 km. The rides were restricted to city roads to make sure I do not get tempted to test my machine capabilities.

First Outing

Although there was a trip that we made to a nearby hill station (Nandi Hills) around 4000 km mark but I never had a chance to drive beyond the 80 kmph mark. Also the round trip was only around 170 km. So I would rather not consider this as a real outing.

However the one that came across the 5000 km mark covered a distance of around 370 km in a single day. This was the first time I crossed the 100 kmph mark and also clocked the top speed of 110 kmph @ around 8000 rpm. This trip was really exciting and a great experience.

I was really amazed at the smoothness of the bike at such a high speed. There was no vibration and I never felt any kind of trouble in consistently driving it around the 100 kmph mark for a stretch of 130 km on the highway. In fact most of the time in that stretch I had driven it @ 110 kmph. The same I repeated while return as well.

Well this was the start and the outings continued. The more I ride this bike the more I fall in love with it. Even after 4 years of riding it I feel my attachment growing every time I take it for ride.

So now let me detail the various aspects of my bike, the pros and cons and other aspects.

Design, Looks and Display

I personally feel the advanced diamond frame design is the best in the country (Please note it is only my personal feeling after riding this bike for 4 years). Unicorn design comprises 149.1cc displacement 4-stroke Honda engine, cutting edge technologies like Multi-Mapping CDI, Tumble Flow Combustion Chamber, Roller Rocker arm, and a Classy Aerodynamic Body.

Instead of conventional twin shock absorbers, Unicorn offers mono suspension shock absorber mounted on a tough diamond frame. The Unicorn’s mono suspension design ensures centralisation of mass. Positioning the suspension close to the centre of gravity, enhances the turning characteristics, stability during braking and the overall riding performance.

Look wise many may argue it lag behind its competitors, but again it’s a personal view point and I do not think a comparison is meaningful in this context. Unicorn features a distinctive sporty and macho design, racy front face and masculine fuel tank. It has a large wheelbase of 1340mm and a high ground clearance of 168mm.

Although many bikes are sporting a digital display, I am a fan of analog display (one aspect I did not like in the 2007 Pulsar model was the orange digital speedometer display, as mentioned earlier). The big speedometer, torque and fuel displays are a good match to Unicorn looks. The big tail lamp of Unicorn suits its size and is a perfect match for the bike.

Riding Position and Handling

The mono suspension and diamond frame combination gives excellent riding comfort and excellent stability.

  • I can compare Unicorn’s riding position with that of cruiser bikes like Thunderbird.
  • Many people complain of back pain and wrist pain while driving for a long time on other bikes (my friends had the same feeling in their respective bikes when we go out for outing), but trust me the riding position of Unicorn is so comfortable that I have never felt tired even after driving the whole day. The highest day trip I have done is 370 km (includes highway, some city limit roads and some mud roads) and I did not have any pain, neither in my wrist or back. The highest city trip that I have covered is 160 km (driving in Bangalore traffic requires frequent braking, gear shifts and hence clutch movement) and I did not encounter any problem in terms of fatigue or any muscle pulls. I can’t think of a bike that provides this unique comfort for both city ride as well as long outings.

The bike provides rigid handling with smooth 1 down 4 up gear shift mechanism. I really like the smooth gear shift Unicorn provides. The stability and balance offered by Unicorn makes handling easy and fun at the same time.

Tyres and Braking

100/90 rear tyre offers a good look and balance to the bike. This is a significant and important improvement that Honda has incorporated in Unicorn sports, that was not available in its predecessor. It gives a good look to the rear end of the bike, which I like most in my bike. The MRF Nylogrip tyres are very robust and fitted with Tuffup tube in rear wheel.

There are occasions when the tyre may get exposed to any sharp object but the object does not actually stick to the tyre. The object may just hit the tyre and create a small hole in the tube. For normal tube that would be a puncture. This tube has a self repair property and in such situation it ejects a fluid and seals the gap.

The only demerit is once the tube is punctured it has to be replaced. Although many bikes nowadays offer tubeless tyre, in 2007 this was quite a unique feature and has been very effective. I have replaced my tube only 2 times in 4 years.

Unicorn offers progressive braking with 130 mm (diameter) rear drum brake and 240 mm (diameter) front disc brake. My personal experience with braking quality has been excellent and designed to ensure optimal braking performance during emergency and bad road conditions.

Performance

The best feature of the bike is its smoothness, be it 1st gear or 5th gear with zero vibrations. Although Honda claims of 0-60 kmph in 5 seconds I feel it may take around 6 seconds to achieve it. The engine delivers a maximum power of 13.3 bhp @ 8000 rpm. This bike has the most refined and smooth engine performance in 150cc segment.

The engine is so silent and vibration free that the rider never gets the feeling that the engine is on, especially if you are standing at signal and the engine is running at neutral. It features a top speed of 110 kmph (I could reach this speed with a pillion rider, but pretty sure the engine does not accelerate beyond that) and to rider’s amazement the engine behaves similar way as in 70 or 80 kmph speed.

I feel Honda takes a good care of safety aspect and the bike is as safe in 110 kmph as it is in 60 kmph. The large 13 litre tank is good enough considering the performance and mileage one gets from the bike.

Mileage

Mileage is never a concern in Honda. The table below gives a reflection of what you can achieve from your Unicorn.


^This figure is almost 1.5 years old. I no longer drive at that speed in city limit and always restrict my driving range in 45-55 kmph mark.

*I feel it is not safe to drive at that speed in the city limits and hence never tried it.

Note: One should note that the figures that I have mentioned in the table above is what I get from my bike at present. It is almost 4 years old and have clocked 35000 km. However I have not seen any change in these figures and have consistently received similar mileage all through.

Maintenance

The bike is very rugged and has never demanded much maintenance. But one should pay attention to lube the chain every 1000 km or whenever the noise starts coming. I have never been charged more than Rs 600 for servicing (This includes all labour charges and also include engine oil price, but excludes accessory cost).

I have always serviced my bike at every 4000 km or 4 months, whichever is earlier. Till now the major accessory cost that I have incurred is chain spocket replacement once and battery replacement once (that I did recently a month back).

Disadvantages

As I said at the starting that nothing is absolute and there is no perfect bike, there are certain disadvantages in Unicorn as well.

  • The pillion rider often complains of discomfort in sitting for long duration.
  • The tube needs to be replaced in case of puncture and is very costly. However the main problem is its unavailability as one can find it only in Honda service centres and if the bike has punctured somewhere in between it’s a big pain to get one.
  • Also it is a big problem if you are going to get your tube replaced by local puncture repair guys. Once it happened for me that the puncture repair guy opened the rear wheel but could not fix it back. Eventually it took him an hour to do it!

Well, these disadvantages are easily overshadowed by the features and benefits you gain from Unicorn.

Verdict

I would recommend Unicorn to one and all looking to buy a new bike. Especially if it is your first bike just go for it as I can’t think of a safer bike than this. You will not regret buying it.

This is the perfect bike for

  • People looking for a bike with combination of power, pickup and mileage.
  • Commuters travelling regularly in city traffic.
  • People looking for ride comfort and drive pleasure rather than style statement.
  • Sudden over takings at times, and cruising at optimum power and with maximum mileage.
  • Who prefers quality over everything else.

And for those who like an alternative look can try out Unicorn Dazzler. The engine is pretty same (a little powerful than Unicorn) and you get the same Honda advantage. I would recommend Unicorn to those people who want a durable and rugged bike for long run.

Take a note that my bike is almost 4 years old and I feel it to deliver similar performance as it used to deliver when it was new. For those who are not yet convinced can still go for it blindly trusting the Honda brand name and Honda confidence. And the readers, who agree with me, just go ahead and be a Wing Rider.

Thank you very much for your time and patience in reading this article. For any suggestion, feedback, enquiry or advices please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

Regards,
Shatabda

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